Tom Mattingly: Walk-throughs become strolls down memory lane

In a lifetime of watching and commenting about sports and assessing their impact on otherwise sane and sensible people the time comes to sit down and rationally consider what the fuss is all about.

It's a time to sum things up and balance the accounts.

One dominant recollection from across the years was the Friday afternoon walk-though at an opposing stadium. On those days, everything was quiet at the stadium, but the storm was building as kickoff approached the next day.

If you listened carefully, however, the echoes of Saturday afternoons and evenings past could be carefully discerned. There was enough history in the air to satisfy the most hardened observer.

If you happened to be standing on Legion Field in Birmingham, there was always a visit to the west side, north end, 31-yard line, to the spot Albert Dorsey picked off a Ken Stabler pass, one of three he grabbed in the fourth quarter, to seal the deal in the 1967 game.

You could also go to the east side, south end 34-yard line, and see Alan Cockrell checking off and sending Johnnie Jones around left end on a play called "The Run," also known as "49 Option," 66 yards for a score. The memory is fresh of Jones emerging from the press box shadows, into the bright sunshine at the northeast corner where the Tennessee fans were sitting.

At Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, you could likewise go to the near corner at the north end and see where Jason Allen, an Alabamian playing for Tennessee, knocked down a final toss that would have brought the Tide to 51-49 and set up a 2-point conversion attempt that would have brought about another overtime.

If you were at the Orange Bowl in Miami, you could find the spot near the 33-yard line west end from which Karl Kremser lined up the potential game-winner against Oklahoma on New Year's Day 1968.

The Orange Bowl is not there any more, however, having been demolished in 2008.

If you were at LSU, you could go to the southeast corner and see where Steve DeLong and pals made the stop in the 1964 game that ended 3-3. That was also the end zone where LSU ran two pass plays in four seconds to beat Ole Miss 17-16 in 1972. Billy Cannon started his famous Halloween night punt return from that end, 89 yards up the east side, that helped defeat Ole Miss 7-3 in 1959.

If the game were at Notre Dame, you could hear John Majors talk about games when he was at Pitt in the mid-1970s. He once said the grass at Notre Dame Stadium was "higher than an Iowa corn field," and he was right. It was fascinating to be in the dressing room tunnel in which Miami and Notre Dame once slugged it out in the famous "Catholics versus Convicts" game.

The memory is still fresh of the 1991 game, the contest in which the Vols rallied from 31-7 down to win 35-34. No Tennessee fan could forget the frantic moment when Jeremy Lincoln blocked the final Notre Dame field goal attempt.

Then there was the 2001 game, when the Vols won 28-18. With the game on the line, Casey Clausen led the way, scoring the clinching touchdown right there in front of the imposing shadow of "Touchdown Jesus."

If the game were being played at Florida Field, you could stand on either 1-yard line and visualize a 99-yard touchdown drive, one that happened quickly from south to north in 1977, the famed Kelsey Finch TD run. The other was a more workmanlike drive in 1971, north to south, capped by a TD pass from Phil Pierce to Stan Trott.

You could also go to the northeast corner, where officials adjudged a Florida punt going out of bounds inside the Tennessee 1, with Bill Battle earning one of the shortest penalties in the history of the Vol program. Game officials assessed the unsportsmanlike conduct foul by picking the ball up and setting it down. The ball didn't move. It was that close to the goal.

If you were at Auburn, you could go to the south 33-yard line and imagine a 67-yard TD run by Jamal Lewis that was a thing of beauty, happening shortly before he banged up a knee and was lost for the season.

You could also go to the north 1-yard line, the spot at which Vol defenders stopped Auburn four consecutive times after a turnover had put the Vols in serious jeopardy. Auburn had four tries at the end zone, but all the Tigers earned was grass stain. Raynoch Thompson led the Vol defensive charge in one of the most memorable moments of that national championship season.

Mention any game and a flood of remembrances of the good times following players wearing orange and white comes quickly.

That's the beauty of it all, that the memory banks really don't have to work overtime. That's the power of history, the power of watching and listening carefully.

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Comments » 12

BigVolFaninSC writes:

On that blocked kick by Jeremy Lincoln against ND, the ball actually hit him in the buttocks! I remember Johnny Majors saying that when he looked up at "Touchdown Jesus" that he was signaling, "No Good!" That was a great comeback and then hang on at the end!

richvol writes:

in response to 02champs#209256:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Mattingly does a great job and Bowden Wyatt was a drunk.

Bigger_Al writes:

Good stuff. Does anyone know if the Kelsey Finch run came right after the punt inside the one and the penalty on Battle?

elbtenn#502977 writes:

1995. Legion Field. Tennessee inside Bama's 5, when Peyton takes the snap, fakes the handoff, and trots untouched into the endzone,with a ----eating grin on his face.

mattingly writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

Good stuff. Does anyone know if the Kelsey Finch run came right after the punt inside the one and the penalty on Battle?

The penalty on Battle was in the 1971 game. The Finch run was in 1977. May not have been too clear about the context of each game. Thanks for the comment.

dvsvol writes:

thanks for the memories - I love 'em. And 02, ...never mind, you're not worth a comment

snoopbob87 writes:

Indulgence please. When Bama would visit the Vols in the 1960's "The Bear" would often watch pre game work outs by leaning against the south end zone uprights. He knew he had great football teams and was quite the showman. He was booed by the vol fans as loudly as any man who ever walked into the stadium and He loved it! Just a memory that still gives me a chill.

ncvol17 writes:

The memory is still fresh of the 1991 game, the contest in which the Vols rallied from 31-7 down to win 35-34. No Tennessee fan could forget the frantic moment when Jeremy Lincoln blocked the final Notre Dame field goal attempt - I was at that beautiful clear cold game. My thoughts on ND changed that day when their fans all congratulated us VOLS walking out of the stadium and a woman sitting next to me actually sent me a photo of the final scoreboard. ND fans have class X2.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Real Notre Dame fans do have class. I was there in 1991. I was walking down to the concession stand and monetarily turned my back on the field. Then I heard a "thump." I turned around and everybody in Orange was running down the field in the opposite direction of the intended action. I realized then what was going on. I proceeded to the concession stand. Standing in line, I laughed to myself and thougt...."Wow...After all that happened in the first half we are still have a chance to win the game!" When we go through hard times it's important to remember the good times, and that we will have good times again. And when we do start having those good times this time around, we need to appreciate it and take it in stride. No arrogance, like some of our crowd who may have been late to the party 1n 1999. It's
not ok to be overly critical in instances when directed patience works better.

hcjournals#206623 writes:

Real Notre Dame fans do have class. They let us storm the field after we won in 1991.
They didn't have to. I was walking down to the concession stand and monetarily turned my back on the field. Then I heard a "thump." I turned around and everybody in Orange was running down the field in the opposite direction of the intended action. I realized then what was going on. I proceeded to the concession stand. Standing in line, I laughed to myself and thought...."Wow...After all that happened in the first half we are still have a chance to win the game!" When we go through hard times it's important to remember the good times, and that we will have good times again. And when we do start having those good times this time around, we need to appreciate it and take it in stride. No arrogance, like some of our crowd who may have been late to the party in 1999. It's
not ok to be overly critical in instances when directed patience works better.

VOLinAthensGA writes:

We are so close I can taste it....

"FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!"

GO VOLS!

RashaadSalabeb writes:

Go Vols! Beat the Grizzlies! Go, Fight, Win!

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